there really is something special about working on a panto. Everyone is in a good mood as it’s Christmas, and no one can fail to be enchanted by the kids’ excited faces – although there are plenty of laughs for adults in pantomimes too. Hearing the cries of “He’s behind you!” never fails to give me goosebumps. this year I’ll be choreographing Snow White at the beautiful london Palladium – and
I’m so excited that Dawn French is starring as the Wicked Queen!
It’s truly a team effort. I have an assistant who will be dance captain – the person who looks after the show when I’m not there. I take it to opening night, then come back every now and then to check it’s running smoothly. but there always needs to be someone there.
For instance, if a dancer goes off sick, we need to move people around to make sure the performance is as slick as ever. We have 26 professional dancers in this year’s show, and they all have to be multitalented. they have to sing, dance and act – one minute they’re tapdancing, the next they’re doing partner work – it’s all high-energy, demanding stuff. I work very closely with the music department too. together, we sit down with Michael Harrison, the executive producer and director, who tells us what numbers there will be, and we go from there. For example, if there’s going to be a medley with dancers in snowmen costumes, we might exaggerate the dance break, build the music to a big crescendo or have snowdrops at this point. We’ll take a musical number and shape ideas, fantasy and storytelling around it.
Putting the steps to the music actually happens quite late on in the process, nearer when the rehearsals begin in November. I do a week of prep, which is just me and an assistant in the studio, then I have two weeks practising with the cast, followed by a week of “technical”, when we all go into the theatre to rehearse on the stage, with all the lighting and costumes. then >>
“Hearing cries of ‘He’s behind you!’ gives me goosebumps”
it’s showtime! This is Dawn French’s debut panto and I’m so excited, as I’m a huge fan, and have never worked with her before. I haven’t been told that she’s doing masses of dancing but I’m hoping I can get a few steps in for her and Julian Clary, who’s playing The
Man in the Mirror, if she’s up for it!
Ex-Strictly Come Dancing stars Vincent and Flavia are also in the show, playing The King and Queen. That’s going to be such an enjoyable reunion, as we worked together on Strictly, and I also directed and choreographed their last four theatre shows. Their dancing style is so special, so it’s going to be fun blending their extraordinary talent into the show.
Panto is often the first theatrical experience children have, so the dancing needs to be magical. You’re introducing the next generation of theatregoers to the stage! I used to go to the Palladium as a kid and would think, “I want to do this,” so really,
I’ve come full circle in my career.
Of course, there’s always the possibility of disaster in a production of this scale. But our cast is so professional that the audience would never know if something goes horribly wrong. It’s all about keeping the story going – we definitely want to give the audience their happy ever after.
✢ Snow White, 8 December-13 January; snowwhitepalladium.com
Karen Bruce, 55, is an Olivieraward-winning choreographer. She is working onSnow White at the London Palladium, starring Dawn French. Her TV credits include choreographing five seasons of Strictly Come Dancing, as well as ant andDec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.
Karen’s back at the Palladium after last year’s huge success IT’S ALL ABOuT YOu!